Environmental Sustainability And Customer Experience

It’s hard to find a firm that says: 1) We don’t care about customers, and 2) we don’t care about being good corporate citizens. That said, it’s astounding to see companies on a daily basis act in ways that show complete disregard for customers and their general well-being. For anyone within companies who cares about brand, this ought to sound alarm bells, particularly as customers become more empowered with global platforms to let others know about their dissatisfaction and as they have increasing ability to take their business elsewhere.

Two relatively new executives within companies are spending their days trying to get company actions aligned with marketing messages: the chief customer officer (or more often a VP of customer experience) and the chief sustainability officer (or more often a VP of sustainability). There is a great opportunity for these two executives to form an alliance that could strengthen both. Why?

  • Both are rethinking product design and delivery through life cycles. Whether it is the desire for safe baby bottles free of toxins, reduction of the annoying excess packaging that they must dispose of, or a willingness to pay more for organic foods and LEED-certified homes, there is a demand from buyers (consumers and business buyers) for environmental sustainability. Companies taking these issues seriously have executives taking systems approaches to the design and delivery of products and services through product and customer life cycles. Funny, but customer experience executives are doing the same thing through customer journey maps, for the purpose of understanding the needs of customers and finding ways to embed “wow!” moments into customer experiences. Working together as they disrupt the way firms think about product development, they should collaborate in looking for ways to create innovative products like Bloomin’s seeded greeting cards that customers can plant after they are finished, creating that “wow!” experience as well as helping the environment.
     
  • Both care about product quality and customer satisfaction. Problems with new “green” products, like compact florescent light bulbs that burn out quickly or contain toxic metals that make disposal difficult, can crater satisfaction and undermine the most well-intentioned efforts. Embedding the customer experience team into design, development, support, and marketing efforts around these new products can bring an invaluable customer voice to the table, helping solve problems early on and troubleshoot emerging issues that arise.  
     
  • Both require cultural change predicated on employee engagement. Customer experience leaders constantly talk about the employee experience and employee engagement as precursors to delivering great customer experiences. Companies that treat their employees well are far more likely to have those employees treat customers well. Customer experience leaders at companies like Southwest Airlines and Key Bank emphasize the importance of corporate citizenship as a way of engaging employees in a sense of higher purpose that leads to more motivated staff members who care about creating better products and services for customers. Interestingly, Lego’s 2009 corporate responsibility report listed more than a half-dozen items that directly relate to customer experience professionals such as Net Promoter Scores and employee satisfaction targets.

If you are a customer experience or a sustainability leader at your company, go introduce yourself to the other and start exploring ways that you can support each other’s work and build credibility within the company. Not only will your success create happier customers and a better planet, it will create a more profitable company.